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Woodbury residents continue to sound off against Red Roof Inn

Renee Penticoff is a psychologist whose clients often use the Red Roof Inn as transitional housing.

Her office is located in close proximity to the motel, a site of an officer-involved shooting that took place in the early morning hours of Aug. 31.

"I see clients in my office," she said. "I want my clients to be safe."

Penticoff said she's not in favor of closing the troubled hotel, but rather make it a better managed place that's safer for everyone who uses it.

Other Woodbury residents, however, continue to contact city officials to sound off against the Red Roof Inn.

Along with Penticoff, Don Houghton spoke to Woodbury City Council Wednesday, Sept. 12, to express his concerns.

"I'm really upset at the Red Roof Inn," he said.

The former Ramsey County sheriff's deputy came holding a copy of a state statute that would make the motel a public nuisance, he said.

"I'd like to see it enforced," Houghton added.

Immediately following the shooting, the city began to receive several emails from residents regarding the motel's safety.

Melane Gustavson encouraged the city to consider closing down the business.

"It appears that this business is consistently a location where illegal activities take place and that the ownership is not interested in changing its reputation," she wrote in an email. "Our city does not need this type of business and the clientele it attracts."

Michelle Kruse said as a citizen of Woodbury for 25 years, she's witnessed the "continuous deterioration of the Red Roof Inn and the increase in criminal activity that takes place there ...

"With the most recent event resulting in a hostage situation, a death and the need for a SWAT team and 40 officers, I would like to appeal to the council to do something about this motel."

Paula Thompson, a 34-year resident of the city, said she's concerned about the image being projected by allowing the Red Roof Inn to remain open under its current management.

"Doesn't the city have the ability to crack down on this business and if so, isn't it about time?" her email said.

Jason Wagner commended police officers' efforts "not only for this incident, but for every day they serve and protect my family and I as well as our fellow citizens in Woodbury."

He lives less than two miles from the Red Roof Inn and asked city officials to take action to deter crime in the area and restore it with peace.

"I know shutting down the business is not the main focus and probably should not be," he wrote. "However, I would hope the policies and practices of the Red Roof Inn will be looked at in depth.

"Criminal activity that consistently happens in one area is usually because it is allowed to happen," Wagner said. "And the Red Roof Inn needs to set a better example in my opinion."

City Administrator Clint Gridley responded to the first round of complaints with a public statement that stated city officials will continue to work with hotel management to find a solution.

City officials don't typically respond to those who speak during the open form part of their meetings. They respond via phone calls and letters.

The officer-involved shooting at the Red Roof Inn Aug. 31 left one man dead and one in custody following a four-hour standoff.

Demetrius Ballinger, a 25-year-old Stillwater man, is charged with 27 felony counts for allegedly holding 11 people hostage, robbing them at gunpoint and raping minors in the motel room before surrendering.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.